I always knew I loved 7-Eleven, especially on my way to work, meeting up with my Good Morning America posse gathered around the coffee like cannibals around a cauldron.
Mr. High-School Gym Teacher knocks Ms. Insurance Clerk’s purse to the floor to grab the last swill of hazelnut; Ms. Cardiac Nurse, who’s always running late for shift change, pulls the decaf out still in drip mode, sending the heating element into fitful gurgles and spits. As I shake the Splenda packet, the fake lambs wool cuff of my fake lambs wool coat catches the lip of Mr. Just-Retired-But-Still-Gets-Up-Early’s extra-large hot chocolate, which teeters…and is SAFE!
“So sorry”… “So sorry”… “So sorry”… And everyone smiles politely.
That’s why I loved 7-Eleven.
There was a time, before my move across the Delaware, when 7-Eleven was a only a stop on my way somewhere away from my house, a good-looking clapboard center-hall colonial, more silver than gray with lacy eyes, a ruby mouth and a bluestone tongue that licked the tree-lined sidewalk in Glen Ridge, NJ 07028, just a stone’s roll down from Montclair 07042, and its “big” sister, Upper Montclair 07043. And while we may not have been as high on the upland slopes of that mountain with the clear view of the New York skyline – hence mont clair – I still considered myself somewhat of an Up-per before I was a Down-er. Before the Fall. Literally. Before that skyline was forever changed, and my husband, who was a first responder, stopped responding to me. Before I bought my bleached-out blond house – that had no face – on a nondescript working-class street farther downhill in an old Italian section of Nutley 07110, not far from where Martha Stewart learned to roll out dough and where “The Little Sure Shot” Annie Oakley retired her .22 caliber rifle.
In Nutley, there was a 7-Eleven down the street at the corner of Union and Hancox, in spitting distance from my three cement front steps in a town my first post-marriage boyfriend called “Nutso,” which became his nickname for me. I called him “Cheapo” (we sounded like two Marx Brothers) because he never took me out, only stopped to bring me my favorite snack, Cheetos, from the 7-Eleven. And with its scarred and gummy pox-marked face of a parking lot, I felt like I was back in high school and afraid to sit next to the ugly girl because then I might be ugly by association.
So while I knew I loved 7-Eleven, I was now pretty sure I didn’t love having one at the end of my street…
…until one early spring day, miles from my cute and perky house in Bucks County (where I have two zip codes: one for the friends who want to mapquest us and the other for the folks who need to bill us), driving alone through my new hill towns with no GPS, hopelessly lost along old Indian trails with street names that abort and pick up again two miles later in a completely different direction, with one hand on the cell phone soldered to my ear (still okay in PA) and the other on the steering wheel, my new husband’s voice pressed:
“What do you see?”
“More cornfields,” I said. “It’s not like there’s a 7-Eleven on the corner and I know where to turn.”
My yellow gas-tank icon was winking wildly at me. Not only had there been a 7-Eleven at the end of my block, I’d also lived around the corner from a Sunoco.
It was then I knew I’d loved that too.